19 FEBRUARY 1994, Page 40

Low life

Tea, toast and chain-smoking

Jeffrey Bernard

Certain newspapers on the subject of my missing leg were predictably inaccurate. It was typical that a so-called up-market newspaper like the Independent should say that I had had a foot amputated when in fact it was my right leg. Never mind, you can always rely on some newspapers to be inaccurate.

Hot on the heels of that, there is now a series of jokes developing, some in dubious taste, others which I don't mind at all and which I suppose I have asked for over the years. Michael Heath is going to buy me a parrot, I have one foot in the grave, I am hopping mad and in future I shall only be able to have one leg over, and that will be a lucky event. My surgeon is delighted with his handi- work and says that it is one of the cleanest and most beautiful stumps he has ever seen. I didn't feel quite so good about it, though, when he told me six hours before he was going to remove the leg. In fact the nausea I felt from the anxiety was quite horrific. In the event, this hospital controls pain very well indeed, and I have had little to complain about except for Mrs Bottom- ley or whoever saving on the heating bills, so that I lie here shivering between such food that I haven't tasted since I was at prep school. I have been extremely lucky with the quantity and quality of my visitors who have cheered me up no end. No one has yet seemed to have been embarrassed at the sight of my predicament, but I am dis- appointed at not getting a few cards from friends I was expecting to write. What does worry me lying here contem- plating the future are the small things that one normally takes for granted. I don't see myself cooking a meal standing on one leg — far too dangerous — and the business of getting on and off the loo is a great worry, and writing this wretched column will be a great nuisance too. What I have come to terms with is not as depressing as I first thought it might be, and that is the possibility of spending the larger part of what is left of my life in bed. Sadly, reading is extremely hard work, how- ever good the book; television is for the most part quite appalling — even the news is getting dull, however tragic it might be — and all that remains seems to be tea, toast and chain-smoking. I still don't feel much like a drink, and I no longer think that the medicinal two or three snorters would make me feel much better.